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I've been accepted to both schools, which I really was not expecting and now I have no idea what to do. I live in Edmonton so it would be easy to go to U of A but I was much more impressed with the program at U of C as it was presented at the MMI. To me, UofA didn't sell itself very well.

 

I know there's a few people here who have or are deciding - how did you make your decision? I'm a little worried that my positive impressions of UofC are more a reflection of how awesome Dr. Walker is.

 

Thanks for the help.

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I know very little about U of A, but I think it's not too fair to judge the whole school by what their applications process is like. I'd consider if you think the 3 year program sounds like your kind of thing or if you are more comfortable with a traditional structure; I've also heard U of A has a more research oriented focus, while U of C is more patient care oriented. I suspect if that's even true, it's a minor lean rather than a heavy influence though.

 

All in all I am certain you would regret neither choice. Go with your gut or take the path of least resistance, either way you'll be coming out with an MD and a world-class education :)

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I chose where to go for my undergrad based on the fact that the admissions committee was very friendly and welcoming. I don't regret the decision, but I think I really lucked out. Once I got in you never see those friendly admissions people again, and everyone else is not necessarily the same. The admissions office is just a small group of the overall people involved, and really, how involved will they be with you once you're in? Not trying to say that U of C doesn't seem like a great school, just saying that I agree with the previous poster that you have to consider all of the factors about a certain school, and not just how awesome the head of admissions is.

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I am choosing U of A for similar reasons. I'm sure both have their benefits and it is a personal choice and definitely people could argue either way, but my feeling is that U of A is one of the top/largest institutions in the country and that goes along with more research, more funding, a better reputation... Calgary is young and experimental. I want tried and true and great match results with a solid reputation to back my degree up. Dr. Walker is great, but he has nothing to do with the quality of the program, he just sells the school. For something this important, I feel comfortable going with a traditional program with more cachet. I am also concerned about Calgary's residency matching this year.

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Zarza I just made an enormous post in the UofA forum for people like you, take a look. Dr. Walker is certainly a fantastic guy and I would agree that the UofC admissions process is more student friendly than ours because of his and Adele's and their whole team's work. But do look into the set-up of the schools and the differences between a 3 year and 4 year program.

 

My top things to consider if I had the choice between the two (in hindsight) would be:

- friends, significant others and family - is there anything ie. children keeping you in a certain city?

- do you know what you want to do as a specialty, or are you 100% undecided? At U of C you need to know significantly earlier than U of A, without doing your core rotations

- what is your average stress level and how do you cope with stress?

- how much do you value summer and flex time during your degree vs. being done a year earlier with less student debt and a jump start on your career

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Wow thanks Cardio. That was mighty convincing, although, having lived my entire life in Edmonton, I think you downplayed how depressing the winters can be.

: )

 

Can anyone from U of C provide a similar summary? I've read the material regarding the curriculum on the website, but it would be nice to get the student perspective.

 

Thanks again for all the help!

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I am in the same boat as Zarza, I have been accepted to both UofA and UofC. I have decided to go with UofA, because I am not 100% confident which area of medicine I would like to specialize in and the 4-year program will give me more time and opportunity to make an informed decision. It also give me more time to beef up my resume for CaRMS. An extra year of school isn't much in the grand scheme of things.

 

I also agree with newsman. I think much of the appeal of UofC, at least in my mind, is due to Dr. Walker and the admissions process. Which maybe isn't an accurate gauge of how good a school is.

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As a current U of C student, I feel compelled to post.

 

Yes, the admissions process is smooth and the staff (Dr. Walker, Adele, April) are great. This should tell you more about the school than the above posts would suggest --- it represents a common attitude at the U of C. We feel like we are part of a family and this is apparent in the relationships the students share with the faculty and support staff. Even the bookstore people know us by name and offer us a seemingly endless supply of treats! If you are ever in need of someone to talk to, there is no shortage of supportive people to help you out. In medical school, that is especially important because unexpected things can happen in our lives and we are often living away from our families or other support systems. So, the amazingness of the admissions office does indeed reflect in the quality of the school... it truly reflects the congenial nature of our experience here.

 

For those people who are worried about not having a break in a three year program: yes, the program is condensed and things are busy but the stress doesn't build as much as you might think. We get a good chunk of time off over Christmas during our first year, and then two weeks after course 3 (cardio/resp which runs from January to March). This course is hard but having a break at the end is refreshing. When we come back in April, we begin course 4 (renal/endocrine) and then go on electives for 6 weeks (end of June to beginning of August). You can complete these anywhere: home, overseas, north, rural, Calgary.... and you can do them in anything you're interested in. Depending on what you do, this can be semi-vacation-like. I expect that we will come back in August feeling refreshed and ready to go again. The interesting thing to note is that the 2 week break at the end of March was put into place because of student need -- the Kakapos (Class of 2011) expressed a need to have a break at this time and the faculty listened. This is another example of how our staff is so supportive and receptive.

 

I found that the U of C was a good fit for me because of my age (I turned 25 a few days before entering medical school) and was just over the class average for age (24.8 or something). I feel like I fit in well here as I come from a non-traditional background. The class is very diverse -- we have PhD, MPH, MBA students; former engineers, nurses, teachers; sociologists, anthropologists, musicians; parents with children or expecting children... really, I could go on. This creates a unique learning environment for students and, in my opinion, enriches our experiences. I love looking around during lectures and feeling humbled by how amazing my future colleagues are.

 

U of C's teaching environment is unique. We have lectures (usually 5 half-days per week). Our other academic time is spent with:

  • Clinical correlation -- in pre-assigned groups of 5, we don our white coats and stethoscopes and visit hospitalized patients with a precepter who is a specialist in the area we are learning about in our courses (so, in course 3, we have three 2-hour sessions with a cardiologist and three 2-hour sessions with a respirologist); this means that we interact with real patients within the first few weeks of school
  • Small group sessions -- in pre-assigned groups of 10, we chat about medical cases with a preceptor; this really helps to solidify the information we're learning in class and emphasizes what is important so you know what to study come exam time
  • Physical exam sessions -- in our groups of 5, we meet with our preceptor and a standardized patient in the Medical Skills Centre where we learn to perform physical exam manoeuvres relevant to that course (e.g. a lung exam for our resp course or a hip exam for our MSK course)
  • Communications -- in our groups of 5, we learn to interview standardized patients (actors hired by the faculty) and gradually learn to approach more complicated cases; we interview these patients one-on-one with our precetor and group-mates looking on through the one-way glass and then receive feedback from everyone (including the patient) so we can improve
  • Procedural skills -- we learn early in our training to do a variety of procedures; for example, the Aye-Ayes have already had our afternoon sessions on IV starts, venipuncture, suturing, basic airway skills and Foley cathetar insertion
  • Miscellaneous other events -- Medical student clubs put on events like a casting session, intubation skills, labor and delivery skills, geriatric assessment, complex suturing, etc.; the clubs invite physicians from the community to help teach students
  • Shadowing -- we still have time to shadow! So, for those of you who are uncertain of what you want to be, there is time to explore options before you enter clerkship (for the class of 2014, this will be in March of 2013)

 

There are probably other things I'm forgetting... Overall, though, the program really emphases the patient experience. If you're interested in the really acacdemic side of medicine, maybe the U of A is a better fit for you... (Although maybe not, because Calgary's Leaders in Medicine program is world renowned.) I don't know about you, but I entered medicine so that I could get to know my patients and really benefit their lives. This is something that I feel the U of C has taught (and is continuing to teach) me and I love that about my school.

 

There are student groups for everyone! Here are some examples: intramurals, Wilderness Club, Geriatrics Interest Group, Emergency Medicine Interest Group, Federation of Medical Women of Canada, Calgary Student-Run Clinic (which works out of the homeless shelter), Wilderness Club, eco group Gang Green, Global/Public Health Interest Group, Aboriginal Health group, Social Sciences in Medicine, Surgery Interest Group, Christian Medical Students club, etc., etc. Really! There is something for everyone! (Sorry if I got the names slightly wrong...)

 

Calgary is a fantastic city. Having lived in Edmonton, I can honestly say that Calgary is way cooler! It's warmer in the winter (yay chinooks!) and is close to the mountains. The city itself has a lot of green space and is hilly so you can see some lovely views within the city. We can go rafting or skiing for the day if we want and get all the amazing places for rural shadowing and the rural clerkship program (e.g. Canmore, Blairemore, Drumheller, Pincher Creek)!

 

I can tell you all honestly that the U of C is a fantastic school but it might not work for everyone.... it's your job to figure that out! All I can say is that if you decide to come here, you will feel welcome instantly... and you won't regret it.

 

PM me if you have questions. =)

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U of C is fantastic! Here are some of things that I think make it a great choice

-Excellent faculty, staff, lecturer's that truly want you to succeed and go out of their way to help you learn. All our small groups are run by either specialists in that field or master teachers (master teachers are faculty that have an academic appointment and have a track record of providing excellence in teaching.

http://www.ucalgary.ca/mdprogram/teaching/masterteachers if you want more info.

If you come to U of C you are literally joining a family-a very huge loving family that will always have your back. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed and there is no competition between students so its a great atmosphere to learn.

-Patient contact- At U of C you can potentially be in the hospital seeing patients the very first week of classes which is very beneficial!

-The way our courses are set up: Lectures, small groups, anatomy sessions, clinical core (in the hospital/clinic seeing patients with a preceptor) provides a nice blend of different learning opportunities.

-Communication and physical exam sessions- There is dedicated time to use standardized patients and practice physical exam and history taking. Calgary has a great rep for producing students that have excellent communication skills.

-Well man and well women- U of C is becoming one of the only schools that has dedicated time one on one with SPs to learn the sensitive male and female exams in a supportive setting that makes learning easy and comfortable.

-Dr. Doran- By far the best anatomy teacher ever! He spends so much time with students getting them prepared for the peripatetic and will take on students interested in doing a dissection.

-Med 440- Dedicated time in second year that can be used to start/continue with a research project, do a directed study (for example a dissection) or do something clinical (mini elective).

 

- 3 year program - You never lose momentum and you are done a year earlier. Yes you might need to figure out what specialty you want to do faster but so far I haven't found that to be a negative thing. I'm not burnt out either not having the summers off. I personally like the fact that it is 3 years and technically speaking we have the same amount of teaching days as U of A.

 

-Really close to the mountains- can head out to Banff on the weekends!

-Mild winters (unlike Edmonton)

-Lots to do and see in Calgary- Tons of festivals, cultural activities etc

 

I honestly could go on and on but I will leave it at that for now. PM me if you have specific questions.

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Sorry to revive this but I'm still undecided and time is running out! This morning I thought for sure UofA but that changed by dinner. And then I had a terrible thought.

 

During the summer, is there ANY time off at all? I realized I'd finally be so close to the mountains but there would be no time to do any real backpacking... Suddenly the world felt very cruel.

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Like anything in life you make time for things while doing medicine. It is actually a really great way to learn how to live for the rest of your life. During school out class goes on a ton of trips and there is no shortage to find people to spend a weekend in the mountains, jet off to Vegas for a few days, class trips skiing, to mexico for spring break, snowboarding trips, hockey tournaments, preclerkship electives anywhere in the world (that have the potential to be funded).

 

If you are dying to go backpacking for the whole summer then UofC might now be the right choice for you (although, our faculty is so awesome they would probably let you defer your acceptance for a year haha), but if you just want to get out of town for a few days here and there then don't worry - there is plenty of time for that.

 

Med school anywhere will get you where you want to go, so it becomes about the journey along the way. UofC is great, but then again I have never been to UofA and I am sure they say the same thing. We are taught what life and balance will be like in the real world, with real patients. Plus, who wants to look for a summer job in a lab pipetting away when you can be in class, in the hospitals seeing patients, in Belize delivering babies, or all of the above!!!!

 

Only you can answer what school is best for you, but UofC would be so, so, so happy to have you here:)

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Zarza, there are weekends and things and the mountains are very close... dashley's right that if you want to take long breaks it might not be the right choice, but my wife and I found time to take a weekend vacation out in banff during the busiest time of my master's degree. From what I've heard about med school, my thesis crunch was about as difficult and time consuming as anything in first and second year. It's only 1.5 hrz drive away... hard not to find the time, if you want it.

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Sorry to revive this but I'm still undecided and time is running out! This morning I thought for sure UofA but that changed by dinner. And then I had a terrible thought.

 

During the summer, is there ANY time off at all? I realized I'd finally be so close to the mountains but there would be no time to do any real backpacking... Suddenly the world felt very cruel.

To be completely honest, med school becomes as hard or as easy as you want it to during the preclerk years.

 

I found, I had WAY more free time in med school than in undergrad. I certainly enjoyed my free time. A lot of people almost don't believe you when you say that - but its true... Because in a 3 month course, you have to study for one exam. And you're constantly absorbing stuff in that 3 months. So you have plenty of time to take off.

 

Clerkship is a different ballgame, but we have less of it.

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I wasn't worried to work-life balance. Scheduling my own time isn't an issue, but if there is class 5 days a week all summer, then a "serious" trip (I'm thinking Rockwall or something like that) would not be possible. Yes day hiking or an overnight on the weekend would be great, but that doesn't really satiate my wilderness bug.

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I wasn't worried to work-life balance. Scheduling my own time isn't an issue, but if there is class 5 days a week all summer, then a "serious" trip (I'm thinking Rockwall or something like that) would not be possible. Yes day hiking or an overnight on the weekend would be great, but that doesn't really satiate my wilderness bug.

 

Rockwall is an EXCELLENT hike! It can be done comfortably in 3 days, iirc (it has been a number of years since I hiked it, I'm hoping to do it again this summer)... maybe you could make it happen over a long weekend?

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And there is a wilderness club here and they go on some pretty crazy climbing adventures year round!!! You will definitely find the time...

 

Too be honest though, after 1 or 2 weeks of vacation you'll be itching to come back. I couldn't imagine taking the summer off anymore.

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Thanks bob.

 

Do you book campsites in advance in Kootney? I've never done any backpacking there.

 

Also - any stellar recommendations for quickies (1 or 2 nights)? I think I've almost exhausted all there is in Kanasaskis.

 

Yes, you do have to book... Here's the website : http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/bc/kootenay/activ/activ17.aspx

 

I'll have to think of some good 1-2 night trips outside Kan - I'll get back to you!

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  • 9 years later...

I had to choose between U of A and U of C this year, and I made a pretty comprehensive excel sheet comparing the two (attached here)! This was created from many conversations with students (past and present) from both schools and with attending physicians, a  look at each program's curriculum and stats, and the personal factors (e.g. friends and family) that I had to consider. Both schools are overall FANTASTIC and you won't go wrong with your choice if you trust your gut! I'm hoping this will help other people who have to make this decision, just keep in mind that what may be a pro for me might be a con for you and vice versa--it truly all depends on what you value. Good luck! :)

UofA vs UofC.xlsx

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